With all this talk about Britain marching off to lead the world in alternative fuels such as electric power, it may be tempting to think of the internal combustion engine as a dying breed.

Proof that this is not the case cannot be more clearly spelt out than when standing next to the Tiger engine assembly line at Ford’s Dagenham plant, watching 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre units filing past in a 24-hour cycle.

These engines take an hour and a half to create from a bare cylinder block. Every 28 seconds a finished unit reaches the end of the line.

It is fascinating to watch the cycle in this immaculate factory, much of it done by highly skilled robots, and remind yourself that internal combustion engines, albeit increasingly efficient ones, are alive and well.

The reason we are here is to celebrate 80 years of Ford’s Dagenham plant, a 475-acre complex on the Thames, which now produces 1,000,000 engines a year.

It creates a wide range of diesel engines that are destined for Europe, Japan and even Brazil, in Mazdas, Fords, Volvos and Jaguar Land Rovers, and the particular units coming off the Tiger line give the Fiesta 1.6 TDCi ECOnetic fuel consumption of 61.4mpg and CO2 emissions of just 98 g/km.